Saturday, 24 May 2014

on being a Long Term Volunteer

Living on Skokholm I am struck at how much the weather influences our lives. On the mainland I often don’t notice the weather, caught up in my own activities. Here it determines everything, we depend on the sun for hot water and electricity, and the survey and monitoring work with birds is weather dependent.  In the last two weeks we have had it quite a mixture. Gales with 50 miles and hour winds stopped the seabird work as we could hardly stand up let alone lean over cliffs to count visiting birds. The sea-spray swept over the island and even the nettles suffered damage. I enjoyed the spectacle of the wild sea lashing the cliffs, but got very tired battling against the winds and had to go to bed early.

This onslaught was followed by a few calm and beautifully sunny days when we peeled off layers of clothing and reveled in the warmth of the sun. Bird work resumed at a pace. Manx-shearwater monitoring and the first eggs from the auks were noted. The sun brought out the bluebells and the sea thrift to full bloom, both have been particularly stunning this year, possibly because there are fewer rabbits. 

This bliss was followed by two days of heavy rain. I find the rain most difficult, as I have to constantly wipe my glasses and find it hard to see anything at all. Rain has its compensations as it brought dunlin, ringed plover, a wood warbler and a common tern to North pond. All taking shelter for a while on their journey to the breeding grounds

Six weeks of my time on the Island have gone already, the time has passed so quickly and I have learnt a great deal. Now the auks are back and breeding there is more and different bird monitoring to come, but more of that next time. I leave today with a picture of the sunrise over the mainland.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Skokholm Erratics

John Lewis's second book about Skokholm tells of the various influences in the island's development from the ice age to the present day. He tells how the Vikings, the birds, the Alice Williams, R.M.Lockley and finally the Island Work Parties have all left their mark, making the island what it is today.

150 page paperback, illustrated with over ninety photographs and illustrations, most of them in colour, showing the island's past and present. More recent scenes are of the new developments and  the various individuals who have participated in the work parties.
Available from the island shop price £12.99.

Profits go to the island development fund.

Also available from the author at :- Copse Green, Elmstone Hardwicke, Cheltenham GL51 9TB. Please add £1.50 for P&P

Friday, 9 May 2014

On being a Long Term Volunteer on Skokholm

Some of you may know that I applied and got the three month  Long Term Volunteer (LTV)  position on Skokholm for the spring season. I have now been here for a month and thought to give you a little insight into the life of the LTV. My first three weeks were pretty much business as usual with the spring work-parties doing general maintenance such as lime-washing the buildings and painting every room inside. The usual work-party routine.

These last two weeks have seen   the beginning of the season and of a different life for the LTV. Our days do have a routine and yet that can change depending on weather and bird activity. We of course keep an eye on kitchen and make sure  everything generally tidy.  On change over days the cleaning of rooms etc has to be done quickly as there is little time in between one set of visitors leaving and another arriving.

Our other important  jobs however are to help in monitoring the birds and learning about how to survey the birds.  So these last few days Molly(the other LTV) and I have been searching for Greater Black Back gulls (GBB) nests. There are some 70 or so pairs on the Island and so far we have located 58 nests. This task involves walking round the Island spotting a sitting gull and marking the spot on the map. This sounds easy enough but requires some accuracy and a fair bit of walking.

The Island is slowly moving into spring dress these last few days the bluebells have really opened and as I walk up from South Haven the spread of colour is breathtaking. The sea thrift is  luscious this year
Some of the migrant breeding birds are returning such as the Sedge-warbles who can now be heard singing from their usual perches. A trickle of swallows are passing through and we think a few of our breeding birds have started to return too.
The gulls are busy making babies and the noise of their lovemaking is deafening. Puffins and auks are slowly coming in.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A bit of help

A few weeks ago Natural Resources Wales pulled the funding for the long term monitoring of Guillemots on Skomer.  Its one of the longest running studies in the UK and immensely valuable  for understanding the issues which affect the seabirds on our islands.
There is an online petition going - please sign it and pass on to your contacts - it just might make a difference.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Data entry of Skokholm bird logs – could you help in May?

We are delighted to let you know that Environment Wales has awarded the Archives Project a grant which will enable us to refund at least part of the travel expenses of volunteers who spend a week on Skokholm this summer digitising the bird logs. The Wildlife Trust has already agreed not to charge for accommodation.  

This means we can start immediately and since there are some spaces during May we would particularly welcome anyone who could spend a week on the island (Monday to Monday) this month.  The work is done in pairs and each team needs some knowledge of birds and familiarity with Excel, so if you are interested please could you get in touch asap with Phil Blatcher ( 01992 441024) who is co-ordinating the work on the bird logs, to let him know which week you could do, as well as giving him some idea of your expertise with birds and Excel.